Mantis Challenge

Mantis Challenge Car

Mantis Challenge Car

The Mantis Challenge was launched in 1998, with the aim of providing a one-make series to provide close racing for competitors keen to race GT cars more technically advanced than the already popular TVR Tuscans, but cheaper than the full house GT1 and GT2 cars of the Privilege GT Championship.

The first season was low key, with very few cars out at some rounds, but the racing was sometimes exciting and the opportunity to compete in the Privilege GT series (as a GT2) and the French GT series, where it won the GT3 class on an outing late in the season, has attracted a number of competitive runners for 1999, including the 1998 Caterham Champion and at least 1 1998 MGF frontrunner.

Initial reports suggest that there could be fields of 25 cars in the Dunlop Marcos Challenge in 1999.

Part way through 1999 and there is plenty of good news on the Mantis Challenge front. Exciting races, strengthening fields, and reliable cars have made the British series an increasingly strong series, but in Holland, the Dutch Mantis Challenge has started, with a 14 car grid.

Rob Knook, a champion in the Dutch LM500 series, won the race at the Trophy of the Dunes at Zandvoort, although he was followed closely across the line by Peter Van Soelen and Peter Van der Kolk. Once again the reliability of the cars was impressive with all 14 finishing. Next races up (in the form of a double header) for the Dutch series are at Spa on the 17th/18th July,

The Spa event also forms part of the newly announced 'Tri-Nations Challenge'. The second round of the Challenge (for cars from both the British and Dutch series) will be at Silverstone on August 22nd, where up to 35 cars are likely to appear.

The final leg will be back at Zandvoort, once again a double header, on 19th and 20th September. Although the races will form part of the national series, the Challenge will be scored solely on the results of these events, encouraging exciting races and packed fields.

Mantis Challenge Racecar Spec.

Engine: 4.6 V8 32 valve, dry sump lubrication
Front Brakes: 4-pot calipers, 360mm discs - fully floating
Rear Brakes: 2 pot calipers, ventilated discs with handbrake attachment
Seating adjustable to suit drivers stature
Pedal assembly all adjustable, full floor mounted and fitted with brake balance control operating from the cockpit
Gearbox has fifth gear uprated to .870:1 to make it much closer and usable to the fourth gear
Limited slip differential final drive ratio is 3.23:1
FIA roll cage, bag tank (100 litres), fire extinguisher etc.
Weight : 950 kilos

Silverstone - March 28th - 12 laps 1st : Edward Horner 17m 54s
2nd : Shaun Balfe
3rd : Jay Wheals
4th : John Griffiths
5th : Charlie Butler-Henderson
6th : Mark Jackson
Fastest Lap : Horner 1m 28.686s (91.293 mph)
Despite being a very late entry,Edward Horner took an immediate lead at the start and held it until the race end. Behind him, Shaun Balfe kept the gap to around 2 seconds. Mike Gardiner and Russell Morgan disappeared into the gravel in unison, leaving Jay Wheals to take the final podium spot. Charlie Butler-Henderson, brother of Top Gear presenter Vicki, and son of a historic racer, took 5th place in his first Marcos race.
16 cars took the start with more expected in future rounds. Long time sportscar racer, Mike Wilds also had an outing and is hoping to make more appearances.
Oulton Park - May 3rd - 10 laps 1st : Charlie Butler-Henderson 18m 01s
2nd : Edward Horner
3rd : Shaun Balfe
4th : Mike Gardiner
Fastest Lap : Butler-Henderson 1m 47.197s (93.193 mph)
An exciting race at Oulton saw newcomer Charlie Butler-Henderson take his first championship win. At the start 6 cars leapt away from the pack. Butler-Henderson took the lead from early leader, Balfe, at Old Hall on lap 2, but the latter didn't drop away. Gardiner and Horner made the lead battle a 4 way tussle and Horner took 3rd under braking at Knickerbrook on lap 3 and soon closed on Balfe, giving the leader a little breathing space.
Horner got past Balfe, but then span, allowing him back through. As Butler-Henderson made good his escape, Balfe returned the spinning favour to Horner on the last lap, although he just managed to hold off Gardiner at the flag.
Snetterton - May 31st - 12 laps 1st : Edward Horner 14m 52s
2nd : Mike Gardiner
3rd : John Griffiths
4th : Charlie Butler-Henderson
Fastest Lap : Horner 1m 13.329s (95.83 mph)
Another close race with Mike Gardiner taking an early lead from Charlie Butler Henderson and polesitter Horner.
Butler Henderson span, allowing Horner to close on Gardiner in the lead. Horner and Gardiner battled nose to tail for most of the race until lap nine, when Horner made a dramatic move to seize the lead.
The two continued to battle, but Gardiner couldn't regain the lead, although they finished less than 2 seconds apart.
John Griffiths came through to take the final podium place, whilst Charlie Butler-Henderson fought back from his spin to take 4th.
All 13 starters finished the race - Thanks to Marcos Cars for the press release for this round.
Brands Hatch - June 20th - 10 laps 1st : Edward Horner 14m 52s
2nd : Charlie Butler-Henderson
3rd : John Griffiths
4th : Mike Gardiner
Fastest Lap : Horner 1m 45.559s (89.45 mph)
First race of the day, at 10am, and in the rain, virtually guaranteed excitement in this race, and it didn't disappoint.
Guest driver, motorcycle ace Terry Rymer was caught out by the damp conditions on the first lap, which caused both VJ Angelo and championship contender, Shaun Balfe, off line. Ed Horner and Charlie Butler-Henderson made the most of their front row start (Horner on pole) to take a lead, which Butler-Henderson was never able to erode.
John Griffiths dodged the first lap mayhem to come through to third, whilst Mike Gardiner (who'd rolled his car in practice) picked up a good 4th. Shaun Balfe was able to fight back to 5th by the end of the race and Rymer rejoined the race after repairs to his car.
Donnington Park - 8th August 1st : John Griffiths
2nd : Charlie Butler-Henderson
3rd : Nick Staveley
4th : Ed Horner
Once again, rain greeted the Mantis Challenge runners in mid-August at Donnington. Ed Horner and Shaun Balfe took advantage of a drying track to set pole and second place in practice.
Come the race, a downpour just before the race led everyone to start on slicks. John Griffiths leapt from the second row of the grid to take second place behind Balfe, whilst Horner dropped to third as his windscreen started to mist up.On lap 2, Griffiths found a way around Balfe.
Horner dropped to 4th when Butler-Henderson got passed him and the latter then closed on the leading pair. Balfe then made things easier by dropping his car off the track at Redgate on Lap 7, his race ending there. Staveley got past Horner in the melee to take 3rd.
Despite Butler-Henderson's best efforts, the position stayed unchanged to the end of the race.
Silverstone - 21st August - 12 Laps 1st : Shaun Balfe 18m 6.085s
2nd : Charlie Butler-Henderson
3rd : Peter Van De Kolk
4th : Gary Kinchin
Fastest Lap : Balfe 1m 29.321s(90-ish mph)
At the Silverstone Summerfest meeting, 3 drivers from the Dutch series joined the British regulars. Rob Knook, championship leader in Holland, was only just pipped to pole by Ed Horner.
Come the race, everyone got away cleanly, with Butler-Henderson and Balfe holding onto 3rd and 4th places behind the battling front row men.
Unfortunately Rob Knook and Horner collided towards the end of lap one, letting Butler-Henderson leap from 4th to 1st in a single move. He was then able to pull away from the 3 cars battling behind him. The Knook/Horner battle (now for 2nd) ended in more contact, when Horner attempted an over-ambitious move which dropped him to 4th and put Knook off the road and out of the race.
Balfe then had a clear track to Butler-Henderson and he gradually reeled him in, until lap 9, when he got past at Copse.
Although Butler-Henderson stayed close (the gap between them was just 0.4 of a second at the end of the race), Balfe held onto the lead.
Ed Horner was dropped to 6th on a time penalty allowing Dutchman, Peter van der Kolk to pick up the final podium position. Noteworthy, too, was Gary Kinchin's drive to 4th after starting in the pitlane.
Croft - 5th September - 12 Laps 1st : Ed Horner 17m 44.112s
2nd : Shaun Balfe
3rd : Mark Jackson
4th : Gary Kinchin
Fastest Lap : Balfe 1m 27.379s (87.63mph)
Croft saw the title decided for 1999. Ed Horner took pole on Saturday from Charlie Butler-Henderson with Mark Jackson and Gary Kinchin making up the second row.
At last good weather greeted the Mantis Challenge runners for the race and Ed Horner made the most of his pole position to take the early lead from Butler-Henderson. The second row qualifiers were also embroiled in their own battle for 3rd.
Drive of the race was probably by Shaun Balfe. Starting from the pitlane, he was up to 5th by the end of lap 2. On lap 5 he amazed Jackson and Kinchin by vaulting past both of them into 3rd place.
Out front, Butler-Henderson challenge for the lead, until he was forced out on lap 6. That left Balfe in second and he reeled in Horner lap after lap, including one which netted fastest lap, but he was still 2 seconds adrift of Horner come the finish.
Horner's victory, coupled with Butler-Henderson's retirement saw Horner with an unasailable lead in the series. Ed now hopes that, like Neil Cunningham in 1998, this title will lead him to a drive in the BRDC GT series.
Silverstone 12 laps - 10th October 1st : Rob Knook 18m 02.857s
2nd : Shane Bland
3rd : Shaun Balfe
4th : Charlie Butler-Henderson
Fastest Lap : Balfe 1m 29.235s (90.73mph)
Bearing in mind ,the 1999 Marcos Dunlop Challenge has already been won by Edward Horner, all at Marcos were pleased with the 20 car entry list. It was encouraging to see so many new faces, including three from the Dutch Marcos Mantis Series. The exciting qualifying session on Saturday saw the flying Dutchman, Rob Knook snatch pole from Shaun Balfe. Newcomer to the Series, Shane Bland took an excellent 3rd place on the grid in the Promotasport car , incredible bearing in mind he had never driven in a Marcos or on the Silverstone track before.

The race got off to an exciting start with the two yellow cars of Rob Knook and Charlie Butler-Henderson fighting for the lead. Butler-Henderson had made a magnificent start from 5th place on the grid. Shaun Balfe dropped to 3rd and Shane Bland was 4th. After contact with John Griffiths, Gardiner span and rejoined in 15th position. Stephen Stokoe who, as a late entry started from the pit lane, had gained 14th p lace by the end of the first lap .

The first four cars started to pull away from the main pack, with leader Knook visibly pushing his car to the limits. On lap 3 Bland overtook Balfe and started his assault on Butler-Henderson who was dropping back from Knook. Bland finally passed to take 2nd place on lap 6, leaving Butler-Henderson under pressure from 4th place Balfe. In the meantime Bland reduced Knook's lead from 2.2 to 1.6 seconds. Staveley then spun at Becketts and became stuck in the grave]. At the end of lap 8, Balfe took Butler-Henderson on the inside at Priory, with Griffiths fighting hard to close the gap behind them. Good steady drives by Jay Wheals, Dutchman Harry Stoeltie and Gary Kinchin held back the European duo of Sijtoff and Stokoe, who were up to 9th and 10th places by lap 8. However, a spin at Becketts put Stokoe back to 11th on the following lap. The remainder of the pack, including a fighting Gardiner , Curtis Hayles, Andrew Davies Gary Fryer, James Goddard-Watts and Colin Simpson kept the spectators entertained.

Despite the gap narrowing between the two leading cars, Knook took the chequered flag, followed by all excellent 2nd place for Bland and 3rd for the consistently quick Balfe, who also had the satisfaction of achieving fastest lap. Butler-Henderson took 4th, enough to seal 2nd in the Championship, Griftiths 5th and Wheals 6th. The Marcos Dunlop Challenge Championship will continue to go from strength to strength next season.

The Marcos Dunlop Challenge continues to offer a stepping stone into GT racing, something which was reconfirmed when the Privilege GT grid was comprised of 12 Marcos, including 8 Mantis Challenge cars. The invitation class was won by Shaun Balfe and Nigel Taylor, 2nd place was secured by Harry Stoeltie in an amazing individual drive. Andrew Davies and Sirnon Harris secured a fantastic 3rd position .

Below are some shots from the Brands Hatch paddock on June 20th 1999.

Mantis in BH paddock
Mantis in BH paddock
Mantis in BH paddock

Below are some shots from the Silverstone paddock on October 10th.
Rob Knook - Silverstone winner
Silverstone Mantis lineup

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